Every basketball player that cracks the NBA ranks hopes to have a long and illustrious career doing what they love. To be able to do it within one organization for the duration of their entire career is something that is truly special. Only 50 players in NBA history have played the entirety of their NBA career with one team. Today, we present to you the 15 best out of those 50. The players listed below are the epitome of loyalty and dedication. They spent their entire NBA careers putting on one uniform and performing in front of one city.
As is the case with most lists that we create, there are some omissions that we would like to acknowledge. The first omission is Spurs legend Manu Ginobili. He spent 16 seasons with San Antonio and helped them deliver 3 of their 5 championships. Another omission is Kevin McHale, who is not only one of the greatest bench players in NBA history but one of the best power forwards as well. His efforts led to 3 championships for Boston during the 80s. Other greats like Hal Greer, Calvin Murphy, Dolph Schayes, and James Worthy also just missed the cut here today.
Enough about the guys we won’t be talking about. Here are the 15 best NBA players who spent their entire careers with one team.
Wes Unseld - Washington Bullets
Total Seasons: 13
Career Stats: 10.8 PPG, 14.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 1x MVP, 1x Finals MVP, 1x Rookie Of The Year, 5x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection
Wes Unseld is the greatest player in Washington Wizards franchise history. Unseld burst onto the scene in 1968-69 as a rookie. Not only did Unseld take home the Rookie of the Year award that season, but he also took home the MVP with 13.8 PPG and 18.2 RPG. Unseld did all of the unglamorous things that a player needs to do to contribute to winning. He was a prolific rebounder on both ends of the floor, and because of his large frame was a tough matchup for anybody to block out of the paint.
Unseld led the Bullets to 4 NBA Finals appearances during the 1970s. He led them there in 1971, but they would fall to the Kareem and the Bucks. He would lead them there again in 1975, but Washington would be swept by Rick Barry and the Warriors. They would get back to the Finals in 1978, and this time, they would claim victory. The Bullets defeated the SuperSonics in 7 games and Unseld claimed the Finals MVP with 9.0 PPG, 11.7 RPG, and 3.9 APG. Unseld would lead the Bullets back to the Finals the following season, but they would fall in 5 games to the same SuperSonics team that they beat in 1978.
Bob Pettit - St. Louis Hawks
Total Seasons: 11
Career Stats: 26.4 PPG, 16.2 RPG, 3.0 APG
Awards and Achievements: 2x MVP, 11x All-Star, 4x All-Star Game MVP, 11x All-NBA Team Selection
Bob Pettit is widely regarded as one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game. Pettit was a pit bull on the court, bulldozing his way through the paint and earning every bucket and foul shot he received. He relied on his physicality and an off-balance mid-range jumper that was seemingly automatic every time he put it up. As a member of the Hawks, Pettit achieved an immense amount of firsts. He was the NBA’s first MVP and the first player to reach the 20,000-point mark. He is also one of three players to average 20.0 PPG and 20.0 RPG in a season.
Bob Pettit became the NBA’s first MVP in the 1955-56 season. It was just his second NBA season, and he averaged 25.7 PPG and 16.2 RPG. His 25.7 PPG led the league in scoring for that season. He would take home the award once again in the 1958-59 season. He led the NBA in scoring with 29.2 PPG and grabbed 16.4 RPG as well. In between his 2 MVP awards, Pettit led the Hawks to their only championship in franchise history. In the 6-game series win over the Boston Celtics, Pettit averaged 29.3 PPG and 17.0 RPG. Pettit retired after just 11 seasons in the NBA when he needed to take on other work to make ends meet.
David Robinson - San Antonio Spurs
Total Seasons: 14
Career Stats: 21.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 3.0 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 1x MVP, 1x Defensive Player Of The Year, 1x Rookie Of The Year, 10x All-NBA Team Selection, 8x All-Defensive Team Selection
David Robinson established himself as one of the great two-way centers in the NBA during one of the best eras for big men ever. For most of the 90s decade, he reigned as one of the league’s premier shots blockers on defense. He took home a Defensive Player of the Year award in 1992 when he led the NBA with 4.5 BPG. On offense, Robinson possessed a lethal elbow jumper that made much slower bigs have to step out further than they were comfortable with. Few people realize just how valuable that proved to be for the Spurs. His length and athleticism were his greatest assets, and with them, he accomplished almost everything you can as an NBA player.
After his incredible rookie season in 1990 and Defensive Player of the Year in 1992, Robinson set his sights on much bigger accomplishments. He would take his first and only MVP award in 1995 with averages of 27.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 3.2 BPG. The Spurs won 52 games that year, and Robinson had the most to do with it. The only knock on Robinson was that he could never carry the Spurs to a championship when it really shouldn’t be one. Robinson was finally able to claim 2 NBA championships with the Spurs in 1999 and 2003. He is 2nd all-time in Spurs history in blocks and 3rd in points behind Tim Duncan and George Gervin.
John Havlicek - Boston Celtics
Total Seasons: 16
Career Stats: 20.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Awards and Achievements: 1x Finals MVP, 13x All-Star, 11x All-NBA Team Selection, 8x All-Defensive Team Selection
John “Hondo” Havlicek is almost a folk legend in Boston Sports history. During his time with the Celtics, he helped them to 8 NBA championships playing a significant role in each one. He came into Boston in the midst of Bill Russell’s legendary 10 title runs in 11 years. Havlicek’s presence was felt, though, as he helped ease the transition for Celtics fans and prepare them for life after Bill Russell was done playing. He was an all-around star in Boston as one of the best wing defenders in his era, as well as a constant threat on offense.
After 3 years of adjusting to the game, Havlicek wound up becoming one of the best reserves in basketball and made his first All-Star appearance in 1966. For 8 straight seasons from 1967 through 1974, he averaged at least 20.0 PPG and 6.5 RPG while claiming 4 of his 8 titles. He helped the Celtics to 2 of those championships after Russell had retired, including the 1974 title when he won Finals MVP with 26.4 PPG and 7.7 RPG. For dedicating his entire playing career to the Celtics and delivering on countless occasions, Havlicek has his No. 17 jersey hanging from the rafters in Boston.
Elgin Baylor - Los Angeles Lakers
Total Seasons: 14
Career Stats: 27.4 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 4.3 APG
Achievements and Awards: 1x Rookie Of The Year, 11x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 10x All-NBA Team Selection
Many consider Elgin Baylor to be the first player to truly play his game in the air. It was clear that he was more athletically gifted than most others at his position. Some would say that his style of play jumpstarted the Lakers’ move from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. Baylor would stay elevated on jump shots while his contemporaries were already hitting the floor off of their leaps. He was an aggressive scorer, often forcing his way to the rim for easy buckets. His play style paved the way for guys like Gus Johnson and Julius Erving.
Baylor was a scoring machine, averaging better than 24.5 PPG in each of his first 7 seasons. This included 3 straight years, from 1961 through 1963, when he averaged 34.0 PPG or better in each of those 3 years. Baylor was just as effective in the playoffs. The problem was that the Lakers just couldn’t get past those pesky Boston Celtics and New York Knicks. As far as Lakers go, there is a case to be made for Baylor being a Top 5 player in team history while the Top 10 is a virtual lock. Although he could never deliver a title to Los Angeles, Elgin Baylor is still one of the most respected members of the Lakers family.
Reggie Miller - Indiana Pacers
Total Seasons: 18
Career Stats: 18.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Awards and Achievements: 5x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Team Selection
It is well known that Reggie Miller is one of the greatest three-point shooters in NBA history. Before Ray Allen and Stephen Curry, Miller was the man who sat atop the NBA’s all-time three-pointers made list. Miller was not just a shooter, though, that broke the hearts of fans all over the world as he nailed dagger after dagger and game-winner after game-winner. He had the ability to be effective from all three levels on offense and could make things happen with or without the ball in his hands. He was as efficient as it gets, surpassing a 58.0% TS% every season of his career and over 60.0% TS% 13 times.
His scoring and shooting are what made him the legend he is today. He was a 20.0 PPG scorer or better in 6 seasons of his career and helped lead the Pacers to the playoffs 15 times in 16 seasons. He was a career 20.6 PPG scorer in the playoffs, where he made a name for himself as a clutch shooter and New York Knicks killer. In the 1999-00 season, Miller helped lead the Pacers to their only Finals appearance in 30 years, averaging 24.0 PPG. Miller is the all-time leader in games played, shots made, points, steals, and assists.
John Stockton - Utah Jazz
Total Seasons: 19
Career Stats: 13.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 10.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Awards and Achievements: 10x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 11x All-NBA Team Selection, 5x All-Defensive Team Selection
Over 19 seasons with the Utah Jazz, John Stockton established himself as one of the best point guards in NBA history. Stockton was an elite passer who still holds the NBA record for career assists. Stockton was someone who got everyone involved in a game plan, but his passing was even more elevated once Karl Malone came along. He was also elite defensively for his position, finishing his career as the NBA’s all-time steals leader as well. Despite being under the 6’1" threshold, Stockton used his creativity and speed to dominate the point guard position in the 80s and 90s.
John Stockton began to really hit his stride during the 1987-88 season. In just his 4th season in the NBA, Stockton would lead the league in assists with 13.8 APG. He would then lead the NBA in APG for the next 7 years in a row, never dipping below 11.0 APG. During this time, he also led the league in steals twice. For 11 straight years from 1987 through 1997, Stockton recorded 2.0 SPG or more in each season. He led the Jazz to back-to-back Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998 but unfortunately fell to the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. Stockton is the Jazz’s all-time leader in games played, assists, and steals.
Jerry West - Los Angeles Lakers
Total Seasons: 14
Career Stats: 27.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 6.7 APG, 2.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 1x Finals MVP, 14x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 12x All-NBA Team Selection, 5x All-Defensive Team Selection
Jerry West is such an icon in NBA history that they made his silhouette the logo for their entire brand. For his work as a player, coach, and general manager in Los Angeles, he is revered as a basketball God. West is one of the game’s greatest scorers sporting a silky-smooth jumper along with incredible ball-handling skills for his era. We should all be grateful that the three-point line didn’t exist during West’s days as a player because scoring records may just be untouchable today.
West was an All-Star for every season of his NBA career and for good reason. He recorded under 20.0 PPG in a season just once in his career and that was his rookie season in which he averaged 17.6 PPG. West eclipsed the 25.0 PPG mark 11 times in his career and 30.0 PPG 4 times. He led the Lakers to 9 NBA Finals in his career but was only able to deliver one championship thanks to the Celtics and Knicks. In 55 career Finals games, West averaged 30.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 5.6 APG. He was awarded the Finals MVP in 1969 even though his Lakers lost to the Celtics in 7 games. He was finally able to deliver Los Angeles a title in 1972 alongside Wilt Chamberlain, who took home Finals MVP. Jerry West’s 14 years of service to the Lakers will be why he is forever beloved by the team and its fans.
Isiah Thomas - Detroit Pistons
Total Seasons: 13
Career Stats: 19.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 9.3 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Awards and Achievements: 1x Finals MVP, 12x All-Star, 2x All-Star Game MVP, 5x All-NBA Team Selection
During his 14 seasons of NBA action, Isiah Thomas epitomized what it meant to be a part of Detroit basketball. He was quick, he could score, he could defend, but most of all, he was physical and tough. He displayed elite ball-handling skills that allowed him to create separation between himself and the defenders. Despite being slightly undersized, Thomas was still a great finisher at the rim and had a deadly 12-15 foot jump shot when all else failed. He was the leader of the most infamous group in Pistons history and delivered 2 championships to the city during his career.
Thomas didn’t light up the box score, so you had to actually watch him play to truly value the impact he had on Detroit. He was often their emotional leader as well as their leader on the court, rallying his squad more times than I can even count. In 1990, Thomas led the Pistons to their second straight NBA title and was named Finals MVP with 27.6 PPG, 7.0 APG, and 1.6 SPG. He is currently the Pistons' all-time leader in games played, shots made, points, assists, and steals. When you speak about the history of the Detroit Pistons, Thomas’ name should be the first words you utter.
Dirk Nowitzki - Dallas Mavericks
Total Seasons: 21
Career Stats: 20.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Awards and Achievements: 1x MVP, 1x Finals MVP, 14x All-Star, 12x All-NBA Team Selection
As it stands, Dirk Nowitzki is the greatest player in Dallas Mavericks' history. Over his 21 seasons with the team, Dirk established himself as one of the best offensive 7-footers in history with a deadly jumper from all over the court. Dirk stunned defenders with his patented one-legged fadeaway from inside the paint. It was pretty much a given that he was going to score or at least get the shot up when he received the ball with his back to the basket in one-on-one situations. He piloted one of the greatest runs to a title in NBA history and delivered the Mavs their first and only championship in 2011.
The 2011 playoff run is still one that lives on strongly in NBA lore. Dirk led the Mavs to wins over the Kevin Durant-led Thunder, the defending champion Lakers, and then a Finals victory over LeBron James and the Miami Heat Big 3. After years of coming up short in the playoffs, Dirk was unstoppable en route to his Finals MVP and championship season. He remains the Mavs' all-time leader in games played, shots made, points, rebounds, and blocks, among many other categories.
Bill Russell - Boston Celtics
Total Seasons: 13
Career Stats: 15.1 PPG, 22.5 RPG, 4.3 APG
Achievements and Awards: 5x MVP, 12x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 11x All-NBA Team Selection, 1x All-Defensive Team Selection
Bill Russell is the greatest winner in NBA history. He is also one of the greatest rebounders and defenders in NBA history, despite defensive stats not being recorded during his playing days. All you need to do is watch Russell for 5 minutes and know why he is considered so elite on defense. He could swat shots from bigs in the paint and switch onto much smaller and faster players on the outside. He was also quite the athlete, running the floor at blazing speeds and leaping over smaller opponents with relative ease. Russell put Boston on the map as he delivered 11 championships to the city in 13 years.
The one knock I always hear on Bill Russell’s legacy is that he never reached the 20.0 PPG mark for a season in his career. What people fail to realize is that he didn’t need to score with guys like Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Tom Heinsohn, Sam Jones, and John Havlicek beside him. His job was to shut down a team’s best interior threat and grab every rebound he possibly could. He did it to an all-time great extent. It can’t even be put into words what his actions off of the court mean to Boston, the Celtics, and the NBA as a whole.
Tim Duncan - San Antonio Spurs
Total Seasons: 19
Career Stats: 19.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.7 SPG, 2.2 BPG
Awards and Achievements: 2x MVP, 3x Finals MVP, 15x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 15x All-NBA Team Selection, 15x All-Defensive Team Selection
He is the greatest power forward to ever grace the NBA hardwood and one of its 10 best players of all time. Tim Duncan dominated the NBA from the moment he stepped on the court in 1998 and that would be a theme for the rest of his career. Often made fun of for his “boring” play style, it did not matter to Duncan, who used the basics to become one of the game’s greatest players. He was an elite post scorer on offense and a debilitating paint defender on the other end. He helped deliver the Spurs all 5 of their team’s NBA championships, including an all-time performance in just his 2nd season.
In 1999, Duncan led the Spurs to their 1st ever NBA championship and took home the Finals MVP award in the process. Duncan and the Spurs took down the Knicks in 5 games behind 27.4 PPG, 14.0 RPG, and 2.2 BPG from Duncan. He then led them to 4 more championships during his 19-year run. What Duncan means to the history of the Spurs is nearly unmatched by any one player on their specific team. He is the all-time leader for them in nearly every offensive and defensive category.
Larry Bird - Boston Celtics
Total Seasons: 13
Career Stats: 24.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Awards and Achievements: 3x MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 1x Rookie Of The Year, 12x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 10x All-NBA Team Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection
Larry Bird was a dedicated and committed member of the Boston Celtics during the 80s and 90s, resulting in one of the greatest careers in NBA history. He made everyone around him exponentially better with his high IQ passing, relentless shooting and scoring, and his instincts on the defensive end. His rivalry with Magic Johnson that spilled over from college is regarded as one of the few ways the NBA was saved in the 1980s.
Bird’s career may have been cut short, but he definitely made the most of his 13 seasons. He was named MVP for 3 straight years, from 1984 through 1986. Over that stretch, he averaged 26.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, and 6.7 APG while sealing 2 titles for the Celtics. He also led them to a championship in 1981. Despite back issues that forced him to retire in 1992, Bird was still an effective player for Boston during that time and a member of the 1992 U.S. Men’s Olympic Dream Team. Many consider Bird to be a Top 5 player to ever play in the NBA. What do you say?
Magic Johnson - Los Angeles Lakers
Total Seasons: 13 Seasons
Career Stats: 19.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 11.2 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Achievements and Awards: 3x MVP, 3x Finals MVP, 1x Rookie Of The Year, 12x All-Star, 2x All-Star Game MVP, 10x All-NBA Team Selection
Magic Johnson is the greatest all-around point guard in NBA history. He made a positive impact from the moment he debuted with the Lakers in 1979 and what came after was the greatest career from a point guard we had ever seen. No one ran a fast break or transition offense like Magic. It seemed like he had a 360-degree vision the way he would hit teammates behind his back or behind his head perfectly in stride for easy baskets. He could score in bunches when they needed him to, but most of the time, he was the main facilitator for one of the best offenses ever put together.
Magic Johnson was destined for greatness from Year 1. He took home Finals MVP in his rookie season after filling in for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center after an injury. With his infectious smile and flashy play, Johnson became the darling of the Lakers while delivering 5 championships in 9 years from 1980 through 1988. From 1985 through 1988, Johnson led the Lakers to 3 titles in 4 years with 1 Finals MVP performance in those 3 Finals. He won back-to-back MVP awards in 1989 and 1990. Magic made Los Angeles the place to be in the 80s, all while going down as one of the greatest in team history.
Kobe Bryant - Los Angeles Lakers
Total Seasons: 20
Career Stats: 25.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Awards and Achievements: 1x MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 18x All-Star, 4x All-Star Game MVP, 15x All-NBA Team Selection, 12x All-Defensive Team Selection
Kobe Bryant has a significant case to be considered the Lakers' greatest player of all time. He is one of only two players to play 20 seasons or more for one franchise and one of the youngest to have the impact he did right away on the franchise. Some may say that Shaq carried him to 3 championships in the early 2000s, but that is just simply not the case. The Lakers do not win those championships without Kobe. Heck, they may not even get out of the Western Conference without him. All notions of that take were squandered when he went back-to-back in 2009 and 2010, claiming 2 Finals MVP awards of his own and one more title than Shaq had for his career.
Kobe Bryant is often referred to as one of the game’s greatest scorers and rightfully so. At his peak, he was a 30.0 PPG scorer or better who was winning scoring titles and taking Lakers teams to heights they had no right going to at the time. From 2000 through 2013, Kobe averaged 27.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 5.2 APG. Not bad for a guy who was considered “selfish”. He also was one of the better defenders of his era as well. He holds the most All-Defensive selections by a guard with 12 and averaged 1.5 SPG or better in a season 9 times. No matter how many excuses you make as to why he isn’t one of the greatest, he simply was, and if you watched him play, you would understand.